February - Shacker
L-R Cory Kibler, C. Howie Howard, Jaimie Tucci
Native Californian, Cory Kibler, (vocals, guitar), will be moving back to California later this year, so I wanted to get an interview with his band Shacker before he left, and find out what will go on with him and band mates Jaimie Tucci, (bass) and C. Howie Howard (drums), before he leaves and what might be in store for after they leave. I also scheduled Shacker for the Powerless III show on the 18th of this month, because I wanted them to participate in an SCS.com event. Attending an earlier Shacker live show, or listening to their album reveal a band with pretty strong grunge and power pop leanings. The recent addition of Annie Aspengren on Cello, however, has made a big difference, both in the band's sound, and in the songs that Cory is writing. I'd hate to see the band dissolve just when they're hitting a real period of grotwh and creative development of their style, but those things happen. Let's find out about the band and what's going to happen with them.
SCS: How and when did Shacker form as a band?
Cory: Shacker formed during the fall of 2001, when Jaimie and I started rooming
together. I had previously been in a band with Howie, a short-lived party band
called The Remnants. We broke up, and decided to start something a little more
serious. It just sort of went from there, I think.
Jaimie: Yeah, Cory already had some songs, so he and I began working with those and
realized that we needed a drummer. Howie was more than willingly to play with us
and our first show materalized in November of 2001. It was at a quad party at Doane
College. I drank a lot of Carlo Rossi. What a great guy!
SCS: Let’s say you’re walking down O Street, and you bump into Jesus. Naturally, you invite him to your show that night. When Jesus asks you the inevitable question that he asks everyone, “What does your band sound like?” how do you answer him? Remember, the fate of your immortal soul rests on you answer, and Jesus will know if you’re being boastful.
Howie: We sound like we're trying really hard to A) present Jesus a unique, singable
melody/musical experience and B) rock - it's up to Jesus to know if there's any grandness in our sort of shambly laughability.
Cory: We definitely rely on strong, unique melodies and I always like to have a sense
of beauty in our songs, even if it's a fast-tempoed rocker. We also tend not to take
ourselves to seriously, but our songs are very serious; no novelty songs about masturbating or anything.
SCS: Probably a good idea, as Jesus would certainly know about that too. So how would you describe a Shacker show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?
Howie: People should expect to hear/see us perform our music with life and vitality,
maybe with some changes from the record and probably with really bad stage banter from us. And Jaimie's cool-as-all-get-out stage props.
Jaimie: I'm all about creating a distinct mood for the evening. I believe that a stage
show/props can drastically affect the feel of the music.
SCS: What stage props exactly are you referring to? At any of the Shacker shows I've
ever been to, the only "prop" I saw was Tucci's hat!
Jaimie: I am utterly offended!! I guess you'll have to check out the late show on
February 4th then! Unbelievable...
Howie: Jaimie's done lamps, stuffed rabbits, stuffed rabbits hog-tied to chairs forced
to watch a TV showing nothing but "snow"...and I think some of Jaimie's rock star pants qualify as
stage props. But not the Scott Stapp ones.
SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?
Howie: I think quite a bit of indie-rock, but that's obvious. As a drummer, I'm
interested in African rhythms and jazz, and while i don't bring those into Shacker I try to make our music rhythmically unique from song to song, and play around the beat more than usual rock.
Cory: My idea of the perfect song is a song that is incredibly catchy (not necessarily
poppy, mind you, but something that sticks in your head) mixed with an element of surprise. There are plenty of songs that are catchy but unoriginal, and songs that are original but shitty... Bands that I think have this quality are Nada Surf, Death Cab For Cutie, Elliott Smith, Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, etc.
Jaimie: Before rooming with Cory I had always listened to mainstream rock, so I was
influenced by bands like Collective Soul, Duncan Sheik, and The Smashing Pumpkins.
However, it is pretty safe to say that since the summer of 2002 the biggest
influences on my musicianship has been from bands such as Death Cab For Cutie,
Bright Eyes, Nada Surf, Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, and Built to Spill. Recently, I have been working from the tonal mindframe of scarcity and lonliness.
Annie: I have a different background than the other members in the band. I would like to
bring in the influences of George Martin and Mick Ronson for their brilliant string arrangements.
SCS: I remember at one of your shows, you explained where the name of the band comes from, but why don't you share it with our readers.
Cory: Jaimie and I were driving around trying to think of a name, and I saw a shack. A
Shacker is also someone who "Shacks up" with another person. This shacking can be sexual or non-sexual.
Jaimie: I remember this being a very stressful time! Cory and I were sitting in my kitchen for like many, many hours brainstorming band names. We had nothing. Later that night, we were driving to a friends house when Cory blurted out, "shacker." It sounded really cool, kind of like a retro-Brit-rock band. My mom still calls us The Shackers. Oh, dear ol' mom.
SCS: Which do you prefer, writing/recording or live performance?
Howie: I love to record. I love the acutal playing too, but not the phone calls and the
money business stuff. But there is nothing like having a moment onstage, looking at Cory and Tucci after a song that went in an unexpected direction and somehow sounded great.
Cory: I love the moment when I write a song and I get excited because it surprises even me, but overall, I would say live performance.
Jaimie: The first time I've ever recorded was with Shacker. It was a pretty sweet experience and a great way to thoroughly learn the songs. Nonetheless, every time I thnk of Shacker I think of being on stage with Howie and Cory and the exhilarating feeling of artistic expression. It is quite transcending!
SCS: You recently added Annie to the line up on cello. Was the change in musical direction inspired by having her in the band, or did the music change style, requiring a change in instrumentation? Also, Did having Howie out of the country for a few months affect your songwriting in any way?
Jaimie: Cory had played me some songs that seemed to cry out for a cello. When Cory and
I first practiced with Annie, we were amazed by how much atmosphere she created.
Cory: A little bit of both I suppose... I had written a few mellower, folkier songs that Annie really complimented, and now that she's a full-fledged member of the band, I am utilizing her amazing skills as a cellist by offering the band songs that lend themselves to cello. When Howie was out of the country, I just got a break to work solely on songs instead of worrying about shows or rehearsals or recording, so
I guess I just had some time to grow.
SCS: Yes, I thought Cory had grown during that time. You used to be like 4-foot-7, and now your're like 6-feet tall, right?
Cory: Yeah! And when I was in High School, I was actually at a NEGATIVE HEIGHT!
SCS: Aside from the lineup change, how have you grown, musically and creatively, since the band first started?
Howie: Cory's really found himself as a songwriter, we've found ourselves together.
We've spent enough time and energy together to forge our own way of approaching music. The elements that might have seemed awkward at first; my weird rhythms, Tucci's bass effects, Cory's still-as-a-statue stage presence (laughter). Now, we've melted them down and created something that REQUIRES these things for it to be shacker. It sounds kind of mythic...but maybe it is.
Cory: I think we just play better songs, both because of writing and because of instrumentation...also, we sort of have a collective goal I think, and that helps songs become finished faster.
Jaimie: I agree. We've been together for a few years now and have had a chance to bond
and solidify our friendship. We understand each other with fewer words and have a more focused vision of what each song needs.
SCS: Lets talk about your songs. Where do you get inspiration from for your lyrics?
Cory: I guess a few things. Every person writes about what hits their heart the hardest, and I suppose for me it would be cliche things like girls and questions about truth and life, but I am also very interested in very surreal, poetic lyrical pictures painted by lyrics. "Autumn" is a good example of this.
SCS: Yeah, I would agree, I think those may be your best lyrics. Cory, do you come to the band with finished songs, or do you work songs out together?
Cory: I used to bring them half-written, but now I come to the band with a tentative finished product, and it develops itself from there.
SCS: What’s your favorite song of yours to play live
Howie: It's so hard to pick. "You Never Can Tell," and "Talk Me Down."
Cory: "I'm Over It," probably, or "Autumn."
Jaimie: Yikes, this is tough..."I'm Over It" and "You Never Can Tell"
SCS: Are there any you don’t like playing anymore?
Cory: Yeah, there are a few songs that we don't play anymore because I think we have grown, a song called "Mixed-Up Head" comes to mind.
Howie: I would like to play "I've Been Waiting For..." but we never quite manage it. We
might lose our fan if we did that.
SCS: Is that the "hidden" last track on Blackbeard?
Howie: Yes. It doesn't have a proper name. You might not believe it, but I'm the
gross voice in the background. Usually Cory is up to those kind of high-jinks, but that time it was me.
SCS: Does looking at Tucci’s sparkly bass ever put you into a trance? It does when I do.
Howie: Only if I think about the man behind the bass.
Cory: Lord Yes. Yes.
SCS: What was your first local show, and how did it go?
Cory: The now-defunct Haymarket Hideaway! I think... It went so-so, I think the potential was there.
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Cory: Playing at Duffy's for the first time; the sound was amazing. Also, our first "big show" at Knickerbockers, when people actually showed up. I couldn't believe they bought it!
Jaimie: Duffy's was pretty amazing. We had a great crowd. Some burley dude asked me if I smoked pot then proceeded to say that he just got out of prison and wanted to party and smoke weed. I wet myself at that point. By the end of the night Cory and I were blitzed off the drink tokens. Some woman said she was sorry to have missed us, but next time she was going to flash her boobies. She had taken a liking to our
SCS: WTF? Rabbit??? What does that mean? BTW, I think I know that woman.
Jaimie: HARDY HAR HAR!! I cannot tell you the meaning of the rabbit! It is something that can only be experienced. Also, If you truly know of this exhibitionist let her know of our upcoming shows. Our fan could use somebody to sit next to.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Howie: Blacklight Sunshine. They always existed sort of outside "the scene," but made incredible music that makes them my favorite band to this day. J.V.All*stars too. Those kids are better than anything on Drive-Thru... If there was perfect justice in this world, JVA would be international.
Cory: Rent Money Big! Holy crap! The first time I saw them was at a house show, and at the time I thought it was alright... then I saw them with Ideal Cleaners at Duffy's, and I just about shit! They are an awesome live show. I also really like Strawberry Burns, Tangelo, Hymn for the Hurricane, Theilgoods, etc.
Jaimie: Strawberry Burns, Tangelo, and the Golden Age are a few bands that I wouldn't mind sleeping with. It's too bad that the Golden Age ate their bassist (or whatever), but I think I know of one...
SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Howie: I think it's pretty cool. Like every scene, it can happen where some folks are hanging on too tightly to something: THEIR bar, THEIR band, THEIR scene, THEIR identity as "punk." That can lead to problems - I like inclusivity, and I like being really open, not just open, to new music and the new people making it. By and large I've had a really positive experience in Lincoln.
Cory: Most everyone in the scene is very friendly, and the scene is very diverse. I like that there are bands like R$B playing with Mr. 1986, it's just an example of the nice cocktails of rock and roll that happens in this town. The scene doesn't seem to be very well supported however, and the same goes for Lincoln's support of touring bands. It's too bad that more famous awesome acts like Superdrag, The Flaming Lips, etc. haven't been here for awhile.
SCS: For the record, Superdrag broke up shortly after they played Lincoln. I don't think those two events are connected, but I doubt they'll be back through anytime soon.
Cory: Uh, excuse me, but I believe I said acts "like" Superdrag and the Flaming Lips! So what? you say? Harumph!
Howie: The Flaming Lips were here after "The Soft Bulletin" came out, and my friend Charles and I stood outside Knickerbockers freezing our arses of begging Chris & Shawn to let us in (we were under 18 at the time) but they wouldn't let us...
SCS: I was at that show, I hated Looper, but I liked The Lips, especially Wayne's mic stand camera that was showing the ultra close-ups of his face as he sang, and did his puppet show.
Jaimie: I wish someone would open up a new venue that would allow more nationally recognized artist to come here. I think Duffy's and Knickerbockers are doing a great job, but Duffy's is too small for someone like Death Cab for Cutie or Bright Eyes and Knickerbockers is pretty busy supporting the local scene. WE CANNOT ALLOW
OMAHA TO GET ALL THE COOL ARTISTS!!
SCS: Well, wasn't that the deal behind The Rococo? It failed pretty miserably didn't it? Mind you, that might be because, from what I've heard from some bands who've played there, that their staff were total assholes to the bands. So now they get Molly Hatchet and Big Head Todd, and Blues Traveller, and crap like that. Unfortunately I'm sure they do better with crappy mainstream bands like that then with indie stuff like Frank Black and Bright Eyes.
Jaimie: The Rococo would be an awesome place to see some sweet ol' indie-rock bands, but it just isn't being utilized. I want to open up a bar! Who is with me??
Cory: I'm with you Jaimie! I NEED A GODDAMN JOB BAD!
SCS: Do you think growing up/living in Lincoln influenced your music in any way?
Jaimie: I'm sure it has in some aspect. My environment shaped who I am and my outlook on life.
SCS: What things have you learned and could advise to newer local bands?
Howie: Just remember to have fun, and not worry about where you made your CD or if you've been to Presto or who's talking about you around town. That's something I'm relearning even now - just to let go of everything extraneous to the music, and enjoy playing, recording, and being in a band with your friends.
SCS: Do you actually encounter a lot of that attitude around here, because I really don't ever see it.
Howie: No, its not something I see too often, just a little pearl of wisdom... though I couldn't say for sure. I feel like an outsider - Howie & Scott's never broken in to any scene except among our friends, my favorite band ever, Blacklight Sunshine, always felt to me to exist on the fringes of a scene...Shacker's the first band I've been close to that I'd say is getting into a scene. so I'm new. I've just decided to embrace the idea that music is a) a financial loss, and b) never going to be a full-time job for me, so I'll just enjoy it, which is the best anyway, and I want to tell people that there's joy in that and that it's ok.
Cory: Seriously, don't concern yourself with necessarily becoming successful or making a mark... just focus on making good, honest music and success will follow if you keep it up.
Jaimie: I most certainly agree. Play music for the love of music.
SCS: Who recorded the “Blackbeards Birthday” album, and where was it done?
Howie: I did it in my parents' house. I got a ProTools 001 system and sort of spent a couple months figuring it out, and "Blackbeard..." was my first major project with it. We recorded it twice - the first time we multi-tracked, but we weren't very good at it, so we sat back down and put mic's in front of everything and played it all together - that's what you hear, except "Fully OK" and "Placing Blame" are the first, original versions. We didn't get "Blackbeard..." mastered, so it's kind of soft, but i think it's pretty solid for home studio. It's not coldplay or anything, but it's listenable, and stands up to repeated listens - that's what i cared about most.
SCS: Really, I wouldn't have guessed it wasn't mastered. It's really well recorded and even, especially for being recorded mostly live.
Howie: Thanks! We took a good amount of time adjusting the mix. I've learned quite a bit since then. The new Howie&Scott record sounds significantly better than "Blackbeard..." - and the *NEW* Shacker stuff is going to be even better! I just love doing this stuff at home - it's a real scream for me. I love the buttons and knobs and being up at 3 in the morning.
Cory: Lord, how Howie loves his knobs.
SCS: Are there any other local producers you'd like to work with who you think could help to develop your sound even more?
Howie: I'm sure I could just be a fly on the wall at Presto! for weeks and learn things, but I'll never have the kind of money for that. I keep learning from everyone around, just tips here and there. when Scott and I mastered our new record (Howie & Scott - "Signs.Comets") with Doug at Studio B, I learned a metric ton from him.
SCS: Are you working on a new album, and if so, when do you expect it to come out?
Cory: We are expecting to record a new album and have it out sometime in the next 4 months, I would expect.
Howie: Referring to Shacker, right? We're going to record. Here again. Probably...sometime in March? So maybe May, or June, we'll have new project(s). Probably a record, and an EP. We don't have any money, so it will be download-it-online-and-burn-it-for-your-friends. We may release it with Mr. Furious, which is an idea i've been working on for awhile but isn't finished yet.
SCS: Cory, You’ll be moving back to Cali later this year to continue to school, what does this mean for the band after that?
Cory: I don't know for sure... maybe if Barsuk or Saddle Creek calls tomorrow and says "pretty please," I MIGHT be able to forego school for a while. (laughter) Seriously though, we all have future goals, and I hope we affect at least one or two people before I leave.
SCS: What song would each band member like to cover the most?
Cory: Maybe a Nada Surf song... I don't know. Something that was never that famous, but that everyone would know... haha.
Jaimie: "In the Air Tonight" Phil Collins
Annie: The Theme From The Juicy Fruit Commercials "Get your skis shined up..."
Howie: We do a killer "intergalactic" (beastie boys), but i'd like to do... "My Sharona."
SCS: Seriously? Are you a fan of The Knack?
Howie: Yes, in the sense that I think their songs are incredibly cool! But i'm not a Beatlemaniac for the Knack or anything - I couldn't name anybody in the band or what year they were popular.
SCS: HAHAHAHA, you probably weren't born when "Get The Knack" came out...I think it was 1979. I was in High School when it came out, and I loved that album. If you could tour with any band throughout history, excluding The Knack, who would be your dream band to tour with?
Howie: The Who. Pete is the coolest bastard ever.
Cory: I have a few: Nada Surf, Death Cab For Cutie, and Elliott Smith.
Jaimie: I am rewording the question. If I could tour with 5 bands during one year, they would be: Death Cab For Cutie, The Flaming Lips, Beck, The Beatles, and Cursive.
Annie: King Crimson, Phillip Glass, Godspeed You Black Emperor, David Bowie, The Residents...the list goes on and on.
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?
Cory: My first favorite artist was Jimmy Buffett, I loved that guy... But the first "alternative" bands I was into were Green Day, Nirvana, Superdrag, and Weezer, stuff like that.
Jaimie: I saw Collective Soul live in Lincoln when I was in high school and knew right then that I had to play an instrument. There was so much energy and emotion.
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Cory: I am sure it was Weird Al. The first music CD, I think, was probably Green Day.
Jaimie: I believe it was Warrant.
Annie: Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
SCS: Whose music are you listening to right now? -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Cory: Actually, I have just been getting really into the Saddle Creek bands. I know it's cliche and everything for a Nebraskan college student, but you understand that I'm not from around these parts... that being said, Bright Eyes, Cursive, Death Cab For Cutie, Azure Ray, ELLIOTT SMITH!, Nada Surf, THE STREETS, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc.
Jaimie: Jets to Brazil, Reggie and the Full Effect, Longwave, 311, Doves, Wilco, Tangelo.
Howie: Death Cab For Cutie, The Long Winters, the Postal Service, Nada Surf, Nick Drake, Sigur Ros, Bjork, Miles Davis.
Annie: I'm going through an obsessive David Bowie phase, specifically Hunky Dory, the Man Who Sold The World and the Berlin Trilogy. I've also been getting into Roxy Music, ELO, T. Rex, Big Star, stuff from the seventies my husband turned me on to. And I always encourage people to listen to all the other dead masters. Faure, Debussy, and Ravel are psychedelic and jazzy Frenchmen while the Russians such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostokovich are pure punk with heavy disonant tonalities, incredible arrangements and a monster beat.
SCS: List off your top five albums of all time.
Howie: Now, these are PERSONAL, not my guess as to the best five albums ever. ok. Led Zeppelin, "II"
Afghan Whigs, "Black Love"
Foo Fighters, "The Colour and the Shape"
Deftones, "White Pony"
(5a) Idlewild, "100 Broken Windows"
(5b) Dave Matthews Band, "Under the Table and Dreaming"
Cory: God, I don't know...I'll give it a shot, in no particular order: Superdrag "Head Trip In Every Key"
Elliott Smith, "XO"
Death Cab For Cutie, "The PhotoAlbum"
Nada Surf, "The Proximity Effect"
Phish, "The Story Of The Ghost" (no kidding)
Jaimie: hmm...this is a toughy....ok, this is based on emotional connection and is in no
particular order: Beck "Sea Changes",
Radiohead "Kid A",
Collective Soul "Disciplined Breakdown",
Death Cab For Cutie "Something About Airplanes",
Duncan Sheik "self-titled" and Coldplay "Parachutes"...(an apparent tie)
Annie: I can't say of all time because I'm constantly going through different phases.
Right now it's: The Best of Ralph Records, Hunky Dory, Low and The Man Who Sold The World, and Rostropovich's Recording of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1
SCS: What single song, in the entire history of music, do you most wish you'd written?
Howie: The Who, "Baba O'Riley"
Cory: Fuck..."Say Yes," by Elliott Smith.
Jaimie: The Beatles "Taxman"
Annie: Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughn Williams, a dead Englishman.
SCS: The last record you bought?
Jaimie: OutKast "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"
Cory: Phantom Planet, self titled. But before that I bought Justin Timberlake, "Justified!"
SCS: Hmmm...That's the kind of thing you probably ought to keep to yourself, Cory, you'll lose all your indie cred.
Cory: Tery, I am the EPITOME of Indie-Cred! J.T. is enjoyed by bands like Death Cab For Cutie, no kidding. Plus, it really gets the middle school chicks. Yesssss!!!!
SCS: Ah, well now I understand...what about you two?
Annie: Sesame Street Gold, for a dollar from the Goodwill down the street.
Howie: The last piece of vinyl I bought was an original copy of "Seasame Street" songs
for my mom & I - we share records. The last album I bought for myself was Woven's "8 Bit Monk" used at Homer's. but I can't take JVA's "Distance" out of my changer - that sucker is amazing!
SCS: No way! What do you guys do, go on group Sesame Street shopping sprees? That's too funny! So, excluding Big Bird, who do you think is the most underrated artist in the music industry?
Jaimie: Nick Drake (though now passed on)
Cory: Underrated, hmmm... If it were up to me, Neutral Milk Hotel would bathe in sparkling honey.
SCS: "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" was either #4 or #5 on my top 100 albums of the 20th century list. Who/What do you think is the embodiment of evil in the music industry?
Annie: The machines that manufacture pop artists, who aren't very inspiring, and force feed them to our youth.
Jaimie: Clear Channel
Howie: I think there are quite a few metal bands who WISH they were the embodiment of evil in the music industry, but are not.
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Jaimie: Like Cory said before, we have plans on releasing another album by mid-spring or so. We also plan on playing many shows before the dissolving of the band. I've been brewing up some ideas for some...um..some big bang you could say.
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Howie: Just to invite everyone to come to a show and hear what we're about, and have some fun and good music with your friends.
Jaimie: Yes, we have a few shows coming up in February and a very big show in March so most certainly catch one of these. Visit www.shackermusic.com for any other info.
Annie: I'm looking forward to making more music with Shacker. Keep listening. I think there will be many good things to come. VOTE! Don't forget the primaries in May!
- Tery Daly